India rules out trade-offs in global trade talks

Tuesday, 26 October 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India Tuesday ruled out trade-offs between agriculture and other areas of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), given the critical role played by the farm sector in the country's economy.

"We need to safeguard our concerns and identify our offensive interests, needs and priorities," Commerce Minister Kamal Nath told a meeting organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) here.

"We need to deliberate on what is suitable in the Indian context, what kind of ambition level we should have when we talk of commitments and how to dovetail our ongoing autonomous policies in the context of the WTO negotiations," he said while inaugurating the three-day conference on "Consultation on the WTO Framework Agreement of July 2004: The Way Forward".

Kamal Nath also gave an indication of India's approach in WTO talks, particularly in market access and services.

"The window of opportunity cannot be successfully exploited without concrete inputs of business, trade, industry and civil society in general," he said, summing up New Delhi's strategy at the WTO in the coming months.

A lot of hard work is required in the next 13 months so that something concrete can emerge in time for the next WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong slated for December 2005, he said.

On agriculture, Kamal Nath called for early elimination of export subsidies in any form by developed countries without resorting to the tactic of back-loading their commitments or creating loopholes in the guise of food aid concerns.

Farm subsidies in countries comprising the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development amounted to $1 billion a day, while a developing country like India was able to provide a meagre $1 per month per farmer, he said.

The focus should be not be just on market access by getting developing countries to lower tariffs but also on the commitments by developed countries to ensure wider distribution of benefits for all the people.

Referring to a proposal to bring down tariffs to zero in seven sectors of export interest to developing countries, Kamal Nath said India welcomed the initiative, but added its scope must be voluntary and not mandatory.

The seven areas are fish products, leather, footwear, textiles, jewellery, electronic goods and auto components.

Source: IANS
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